The Philadelphia Union are only four months into their inaugural season, but the club has already begun putting in place a foundation for sustained success. In addition to a young and talented first-team roster featuring the likes of Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo and Roger Torres, the expansion side has started piecing together their player development structure. With a partnership in place with YSC Sports that focuses on player development from ages 8-12, the Union will field their first U-17 squad Friday night in the SUM U-17 Cup.
The SUM U-17 Cup is a youth tournament comprised exclusively of all 16 Major League Soccer U-17 teams, with the winner of the tournament advancing to play in next year’s prestigious Torneo Quixote youth tournament in Spain and the runner up joining the SuperGroup of the Dallas Cup.
The 2010 SUM U-17 Cup will be held at Houston’s Centennial Park complex from July 23-28, with the final taking place on July 28 at Reliant Stadium before the MLS All-Stars take on Manchester United in the 2010 MLS All-Star game.
In June, MLS Executive Vice President of Competition Todd Durbin conducted the draw, which placed the 16 MLS teams into four groups of four. Each team will play against each of the other teams in their respective group, with the winner of each group advancing to the single-game semifinals. The semifinal winners will advance to the finals on July 28.
"The Philadelphia Union believe strongly that youth player development is a key for long term success,” said Coach John Hackworth, who is overseeing the program. “Moreover, we feel that it is important to both work with and lead the local youth soccer community in the best practices of player development.
“This U-17 Academy group is special because they are the first team to train and compete under our direction. We hope that this experience will prove to be a valuable step in each players life both on and off the field."
While Hackworth is in charge of the overall vision of the program, former Scottish international Iain Munro is serving as Head Coach, with Ian Hennessy as Assistant Coach. Munro has extensive experience as an ex-professional soccer player who played in the top soccer divisions in Scotland and England during a long playing career. He played for teams including Glasgow Rangers and Sunderland, working under renowned coaches including Jock Stein and Sir Alex Ferguson. Hennessy, a former All-American soccer player at Seton Hall who played professionally with a number of teams including the New York MetroStars, currently serves as Head Men’s Soccer Coach at the University of Delaware.
Headlining the squad is Alex Shinsky, a crafty forward from York, Pa., who scored for the U-17 U.S. National Team against Malawi in last year’s U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. The Union also feature Mike Gonzalez and James McLaughlin, who combined for 11 goals for FC Delco in league play last season. With two other players, Zach Pfeffer and Darius Madison, currently in the U-17 residency camp, there's plenty of talent for the squad to make a run deep into the tournament despite a lack of experience playing together.
The Union’s U-17 squad will compete in Group B along with the Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas.
Union U-17 Schedule (All times CST)
July 23, 8:00 p.m. Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union
July 24, 8:00 p.m. Seattle Sounders vs. Philadelphia Union
July 26, 6:00 p.m. Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas
Group A winner vs. Group B winner and Group C vs. Group D winner; 6:30 p.m., 9:00 p.m. at Carl Lewis Field
4:00 p.m., at Reliant Stadium in conjunction with the 2010 MLS All-Star Game
Group A: Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes
Group B: Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders
Group C: Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, New England Revolution, Toronto FC
Group D: Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake